Reaction to the death of Willie Mays, ‘the godfather of center fielders’

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Reaction from the sports world and beyond to the death of baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He died Tuesday at age 93, Mays family and the San Francisco Giants jointly announced. Mays’ electrifying combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest and most beloved players.

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“I am beyond devastated and overcome with emotion. I have no words to describe what you mean to me — you helped shape me to be who I am today. Thank you for being my Godfather and always being there. Give my dad a big hug for me. Rest in peace Willie. I love you forever. #SayHey” — Former hitter and Mays’ godson Barry Bonds.

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“He’s the godfather of center fielders. When you think about playing center field and you’re a person of color, that’s who they compare you to. For him to pull me aside and spend all the time he did with me meant a lot.” — Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

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“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power. He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person – and an inspiration to an entire generation. I’m lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.” — Former President Barack Obama.

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“He was a guy I talked to a lot, and we talked baseball. He had a little office right by mine up there. And so I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with that man. Of course, what a legend he is, could be the best, the greatest player of all time, that’s how good he was.” — Former San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

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“His incredible achievements and statistics do not begin to describe the awe that came with watching Willie Mays dominate the game in every way imaginable. We will never forget this true Giant on and off the field.” — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

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“RIP Willie Mays. You changed the game forever and inspired kids like me to chase our dream. Thank you for everything that you did on and off the field. Always in our hearts.” — Former pitcher CC Sabathia.

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“I’m devastated to hear about the passing of the legendary Hall of Famer Willie Mays, one of the main reasons I fell in love with baseball. Cookie and I are praying for his family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.” — NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

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“The great Willie Mays has passed away. It was a privilege to know him. We were both honored by @MLB in 2010 with the Beacon Award, given to civil rights pioneers. He was a such a kind soul, who gifted my brother Randy a new glove and a television during his rookie year with the @SFGiants. My deepest condolences to his family. He will be missed.” — Tennis legend Billie Jean King.

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“Willie Mays’ passion for the game and incredible talent made him the embodiment of baseball for millions of fans and one of the most beloved players in history. More than a half century after his playing days, he remained an American treasure and a baseball icon synonymous with love of the game. His ever-present smile and joyous presence radiated throughout Cooperstown, and we will forever cherish his legacy. For teammates, opponents and friends, Willie Mays exemplified excellence.” — Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark.

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“Willie ended his Hall of Fame career in Queens and was a key piece to the 1973 NL championship team. Mays played with a style and grace like no one else. Alex and I were thrilled to honor a previous promise from Joan Payson to retire his iconic #24 as a member of the Mets in 2022. On behalf of our entire organization, we send our thoughts and prayers to Willie’s family and friends.” — Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen.

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“From his professional debut with the Birmingham Black Barons at age 17 through his 24 All-Star Games to his Hall of Fame induction in 1979, Willie’s skill on the field and impact off it elevated him to a stature that was larger than life.” — MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark.

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“The great Willie Mays has passed away. Had the honor of talking with him several times. He loved that we mentioned his ’54 World Series catch in City Slickers. The man who hit the ball and the “ Giant” who caught it signed this ball. RIP #24.. a thrill to watch you play.” — Actor Billy Crystal.

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“Best player I’ve ever seen. Greatest player. I fortunately grew up in the Bay Area during Mays’ prime, and he was a five-tool player, an extraordinarily good five-tool player. You’d go to a game and he would do something. Whether it would be a great catch, a great throw, a stolen base, hit a home run or he’d do them all. He was just that kind of player. … What always came off was that he was the ‘Say Hey Kid.’ He had that ebullient personality. Infectious and genuine, and I got to tell him he was the greatest player I ever saw.” — Former player Keith Hernandez.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

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